A year after Michael Jackson's death, fairgoers at the Alameda County Fair can take a spin on two rides once featured at Jackson's Neverland Ranch.
The 98th annual fair, which opened Wednesday, is a 17-day assortment of fair festivities and a multitude of events, shows and unique surprises, including the late night fireworks show that starts at dusk next Friday night, July 2.
A highlight is Neverland's "Balloon Samba" ride and the "Moonwalker" ride, both of which will run until the fair's end on July 11.
The Balloon Samba features carriages that simulate riding in a hot air balloon, according to a description from California State Fair representatives. The Moonwalker ride is a Michael Jackson-themed funhouse.
Fully able to accommodate the average of 30,000 daily visitors, the fair encompasses some 268 acres, making it one of the largest of the 84 fairs in California. Nationally, the Alameda County Fair ranks 41 in attendance among all fairs in the U.S.
Although the fair runs through July 11, it's closed on Tuesdays.
The fair's theme this year is "Come Out And Play," a playful challenge to the residents of Pleasanton, the Tri-Valley and the greater Bay Area to visit the fairgrounds.
From fantastic food, exhibits, and entertainment, there is something for everyone at the fair. Families who are looking for a bargain will find fun, food, and folly at a fair price: right in their own back yard. Budget-conscious offerings are plentiful, from food-eating contests to pig races and all things fun in between, April Mitchell, manager of Event Sales and Marketing, said.
This year's fair is also offering special admission prices, including "Kids Free Fridays," "$3 wacky Wednesdays" and "Seniors Free Thursdays."
Military Appreciation Day is also scheduled for next Friday, when all those with a valid military I.D. will receive free admission along with one guest. Veterans are welcome.
Among new activities and attractions this year are:
This hands-on, interactive and fun-filled learning exhibit brings families and Fidos together! Learn everything you need to know about dogs and view demonstrations on dog grooming and heath care. Check out the popular "Pup-E-Harmony" to help match your family with the perfect dog!
World Championship Mutton Bustin' is "The Toughest Sport on Wool!" Boys and girls, three to six years old, weighing less than 60 pounds, try to ride a sheep for a full six seconds. If they make it six seconds they get a score just like a bull rider would! Don't miss the antics and fun from mascot "Buster Mutton" as he interacts with kids and adults alike.
Come join all the Fun with Physics testing your ability to solve brain racking challenges and mind bogglers. Use your imagination to solve puzzles with the Bernoulli principal and Newton's Laws of Motion.
New Foods at the Fair
Check out the World's Largest Waffle Cone filled with yummy gelato and the all new sure to be a favorite Chocolate Covered Bacon.
Returning Favorites include Kid-Friendly/ Family-Friendly Fun such as:
AgVenture Park - This interactive and educational area features fun for the farmer in all of us. Experience simulated cow milking, pony saddling and the kid's corn box play area. Don't forget to check out all the great attractions including the Kids Pedal Tractor Pull, Petting Zoo and so much more.
Kids Park - Families will enjoy this fun place with kid-sized rides and games and features the Balloon Samba, a ride from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch
Pig Races - The only place to see the ever popular pig races, they are a fair favorite and the most taken picture at the Fair.
Carnival Rides - Grand Carousel, Himalaya, Cyclone, Wacky Worm, Fun Mardi Gras, Orient Express are ridden over and over again by the thrill seekers.
Live Horse Racing - With the view of the gorgeous golf course and palm trees waving in the wind, nothing beats the crowd cheering when a favorite wins at break neck speed on the oldest one-mile race track in America.
Live Roller Derby - Rough, tough and tumble entertainment with crowd pleasing jabs, shoves and maybe even some hair pulling action.
Besides all the rides and entertainment, the fair promises to give a boost to the local economies in Pleasanton, the Tri-Valley and Alameda County, adding millions of dollars in revenue as a record number of patrons—possibly more than 500,000—pour through the gates for a day of fun, entertainment and the special foods only county fairs serve.
Pleasanton Finance Director Dave Culver finds it hard to separate out sales tax revenue that comes here from the fair, but his tax reports spike in June and July when the fair is on.
Fairgoers generally come for the day and many are from Pleasanton, but downtown businesses, Stoneridge Shopping Center and other local stores see larger crowds, restaurants are usually filled and local gas stations do a brisk business on fair days. Heavier traffic is seen across the Tri-Valley, showing the benefits of the fair spread well beyond Pleasanton.